When Enough Is Never Enough

Is there a difference between a shopping addiction and a shopping passion? Shopping is a difficult issue because it is not as obviously damaging as drug or alcohol addiction. It fits into a much more stealthy category. By clinical definition there are actually two types of addiction: substance addictions (like alcoholism, drug abuse, and smoking); and process addictions (gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity). We all spend money, and most of us really like to spend money. So, at what point does spending become an addiction?

I was watching an organizational show on TV the other day. The organizational experts had come in to help a woman with a devastating addiction to shopping. Her husband was threatening to leave her. Her children were so embarrassed and wounded. Her house was literally crammed full in every corner with piles and piles of stuff. And as a result of her spending, they were in an enormous amount of debt. Yet even faced with the horrific reality of addiction, the woman continued to want to shop.

It is so easy to look at that example and think, “Well, I am glad that is not me.” But the nasty thing about addiction is that it will always cloak itself in denial. Your home may not be crammed with stuff, but if you are continually spending money without regard to the consequences it is having on your finances or family, and if you feel that, although you would love to get control of your finances, you are continually sabotaged by your shopping… you may have a shopping addiction.

Addiction is anything that you turn to for comfort, for security, to fill your need, or to get a rush that becomes a compulsion and ends up controlling you. The truth is that you have gone to addiction as a friend, as comfort. There is something going on in your heart that is broken and addiction has stepped in as a way to feel better. It has been a way to feel good for those moments. But it has only pretended to be your friend. As its vise starts closing around your life, your relationships, even your finances, you realize that there is no comfort, no answers… just the deep dark hole of more addiction.

If you recognize yourself in this description and spending has already closed its vise on your life, I have wonderful news for you. There is never a hole too deep that the loving arms of your heavenly Father can’t reach you. His grace is more than sufficient for every wound, every need, and every addiction. One of the first steps to dealing with addiction is to realize that there is a problem. And until you can admit your weakness, you will never be able to take hold of God’s amazing strength.

I will be honest with you, the road to freedom is a climb. Just like the road out of debt is a climb (see my blog on debt climbing here). It starts with getting honest with yourself and with your loved ones. You may think that you are in this alone, but there are always so many others who are affected by your life. Mostly, they just love you and want you to be free, and you are going to need help.

But always remember, addiction is a behavior. It is not a definition of who you are! You are a child of God. You are no longer in bondage to sin. That is how God sees you. Many times the most powerful thing you can do is to get into agreement with how God sees you and that this addiction is not His plan for you. You have to surrender the love and friendship that you have felt for your addiction, for real love.

Doug Weiss, an expert counselor on addiction, advises that, as you are getting free from the power of addiction, write a letter to your addiction. It is a farewell letter admitting the role that it has played in your life and also recognizing the devastation that it has brought, and then saying goodbye forever. Compulsive spending is not your friend. Addiction is not your friend. It is the enemy of your soul, or at least it is the enemy’s work in your life.

If you are addicted to shopping or any other addiction, I would highly advise you to go and seek counseling. Go to a pastor because you will need support and prayer, but I would advise finding an expert who deals with addiction. This is not an overnight fix, although it has happened that way for some. However, for most people there is a retraining of habits. They have to begin to learn the triggers (like stress, fatigue, sickness, hunger, loneliness) that are driving their addiction. And at the deepest level, you have to look at what is going on in your heart and what the brokenness is that has made you susceptible to addiction in the first place.

It is God’s deepest longing to lead you to a place of healing and freedom. He sent His precious Son, Jesus, so that we would never again have to be bound by sin and by the destructive purposes of the enemy. I know that there is so much to this topic and I have just barely skimmed the surface. However, it is my prayer that this may just be an awakening call to your heart today. If the rush of shopping and spending money has become a compulsion, it is time to take an honest look at addiction. Even if your issue is not yet debilitating, don’t be content to live with a little bit of bondage.

You have dreams for your life, and desires for your finances (or you wouldn’t be reading this blog). Take this weekend to ask the Lord and search your own heart with the question, “Is there anything that is controlling me in my impulses when it comes to spending? Is there any kind of addiction that is governing my spending habits?” A life free from addiction is so much more than just a happy thought or a dream of freedom. It is absolutely possible, and the good news is that because of what Jesus has already done for you, it is your inheritance. You were not created for slavery. You were created for God’s presence, for relationship, and you were created for freedom.